International Crackdown on West African Organized Crime Nets 103 Suspects

Published: 14 August 2023

Interpol Nigeria Organized CrimePortuguese police raid one of the premises used by the gang. (Photo: Interpol, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

A comprehensive international operation led to the detention of 103 individuals and the seizure of over two million euros (US$2.19 million) from West African organized crime groups groups that have turned into a serious global security threat.

The “Black Axe” and other West African organized crime groups have gained notoriety for their involvement in various cyber-enabled financial fraud schemes, including business email compromise, romance scams, inheritance scams, credit card fraud, tax fraud, advance payment scams, and money laundering.

The operation, conducted between May 15 and 29, involved law enforcement agencies from 21 countries and focused on disrupting the activities of such groups, Interpol announced last week.

Interpol's Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre Director, Isaac Kehinde Oginni, emphasized that Interpol is dedicated to collaborating with member countries to dismantle these groups and freeze their ill-gotten assets. Oginni reiterated that tackling the illegal activities of Black Axe and similar syndicates remains a priority for Interpol.

The extensive investigation identified 1,110 suspects, and blocked 208 bank accounts. Nearly half of the seized money was recovered in Portugal while 34 suspects were detained in Ireland.

Originating from a student fraternity in Nigeria, the Black Axe mafia cult has earned a reputation as one of the most-feared organized crime syndicates in the country, involved in both fraudulent and extremely violent activities on a global scale, as reported by the BBC.

This latest operation builds upon prior efforts in 2022, which resulted in the seizure of 1.2 million euros (approximately US$1.3 million) from bank accounts and the arrest of 75 individuals. Interpol's commitment to combating West African organized crime remains steadfast, aiming to disrupt their financial networks and dismantle their operations.